Am I My Brother’s Keeper

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Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time


Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”


Opening Prayer:  Lord, you created me for eternity to live with you forever. You came to earth as my Redeemer and Savior to show me how to live. You are Truth. While there are many distractions and temptations in my world, I know that my true happiness lies in believing and trusting you in all that you teach and all that you ask of me. Accept this moment of prayer as an act of love for you and thanksgiving for your loving care of me.


Encountering Christ:


  1. A Cup of Water:  Water is essential to life, but giving someone a cup of water seems like a little thing, virtually insignificant. For most of us, it is. We are blessed to have drinking water in abundance. For some, though, water is scarce and precious. Sharing a cup of water in such a circumstance is reminiscent of the poor widow who “offered her whole livelihood” (Luke 21:4). While we have an abundance of water, most of us do not feel we have an abundance of time. If we are asked to give up our time, it can feel like too big a sacrifice. Yet, just as the gift of a simple cup of water to someone in need ensures a reward, giving of our time in service pleases Our Lord and brings us blessings. 
  2. A Stumbling Block: In Genesis 4:9, “God asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He answered, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” In the Gospel of Luke, the “scholar of the law…wished to justify himself and asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:25, 29). Both passages indicate an unwillingness to be responsible for others. Just as we are called to generous service in the use of our time, we are called to serve others in the testimony of our lives. When we speak against or behave in ways contrary to the Church’s teaching, we can be stumbling blocks to others’ faith. And “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” is called “scandal”; further, “The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter” (CCC 2284).
  3. If Salt Has Lost Its Saltiness…: We are meant to encourage one another and to draw others to Christ through our witness and our words. What happens when our faith becomes lukewarm? We lose the positive influence we are meant to have on those around us, and we can gradually become desensitized to sin in our own lives. Faithfulness to Christ means being willing to sacrifice whatever it is that draws us away from him, and he emphasizes this through a series of hyperbolic statements. It is out of love that Jesus lets us know that “mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom…our freedom has the power to make choices for evil, with no turning back” (CCC 1861). 


Conversing with Christ: Oh my Jesus, loving my neighbor as myself is more than being nice or even kind. In today’s Gospel you show me just how seriously I need to take this element of living in union with you. You want me to live with you for all eternity, and you call me to desire eternal life for my brothers and sisters, the neighbors you have put in my path. Lord, help me see my life and actions through your eyes so that I am aware of how they can negatively impact others. May I accept responsibility for living as befits one who bears your name.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will identify one area in my life that does not provide an authentic witness of my Catholic faith and will develop a plan to grow closer to you in this area.


For Further Reflection: Prayerfully read through the section “Respect for the souls of others: scandal” in the Catechism (2284-2287).


Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics. 

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